This article is written by Chandler Jesudason who is pursuing a Diploma in Cyber Law, Fintech Regulations & Technology Contracts from LawSikho.
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The petition by National Law university scholar Amber Tickoo contended that the move to install CCTV cameras in classrooms and sharing of the live stream to parents would violate students’ fundamental basic right to privacy. The Supreme Court however rejected this plea to prevent/halt the installation of security (CCTV) cameras in New Delhi government schools lecture rooms and also the live streaming of footage to guardians.
Fundamental rights are guaranteed to every citizen of this country under the Constitution of India. Article 21 of the constitution of India, “ No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law”. Over the years, the scope of this Article 21, has been widened. The word “life” includes all aspects of life, which makes a man’s life meaningful, complete and worth living.
The petition averred that the move would violate students’ fundamental, basic right to privacy and jeopardize the wellbeing and security of the same students it seeks to safeguard. It was also highlighted in the Petition that the streaming footage of female staff and students might lead to stalking and voyeurism.
It was further contended in the petition that the government’s installation of CCTV, lacked adequate safety measures for the stored recording and warned that unless the information was secure, it’d be vulnerable to hacking. The concerned Government of Delhi requested the Hon’ble Court to put a stay on the matter but the stay was refused by the Supreme Court.
The Alarming Concerns that lead to this Petition
Talking to The Wire, Meeta Rai, who has been a faculty administrator for over 40 years, noted that cameras must ideally solely be restricted to the corridors and common areas and not enter the school rooms. “They can burden the teachers. Constant observation will turn them into nervous wrecks,” she had added. If cameras must be added in classrooms, then they must be installed in a way that enables solely the faces of the students to be captured, as “that is enough to convey however the classes are being conducted,” Rai had said.
A lawyer, Apar, had warned that live streaming from classrooms would end in “policing of children” and impact their “moral decisions and behaviour” further. “It can condition students into becoming fearful clients, not full citizens,” he had asserted.
The concern over constant monitoring was one thing YouTuber Dhruv Rathee commented in tweeter as , he had referred to it as a “dystopian nightmare”, adding, “Constant worry in students can hamper their development.” The move might stop crimes, says the government.
While announcing the move, the New Delhi government spoke concerning how students necessitated by the rising incidents of crimes against youngsters in class. It quoted a Gurugram incident where a 7-year-old student died due to the actions of a 16-year-old student.
The government additionally held that the new system would “ensure safety of kids” and create the system transparency.
Despite reservations round the move, the New Delhi government went ahead with it. Last year, a trial was held in 5 colleges in north New Delhi. Throughout the test live stream was not made available to guardians.
During the launch of successful installation in the first school, the Delhi Chief Minister Mr. Arvind Kejriwal assured that there would be no privacy breach. “Children attend school to be taught discipline and become sensible students for the society” he added.
1.2 lac cameras to be installed. The project, it had been announced, would encompass two hundred schools by July end and every one of the 1,041 city government schools by November the year 2019. At a price of Rs 600 crores, as many as 1.2 lac cameras are going to be put in across schools – 2 in each schoolroom.
Parents will get from ‘DGS Live’ app, from Google Play Store. Then they’ll receive an SMS from the govt control room and then upon verification, will get the feed.
Parents in the first school, Kejriwal flagged off the project, lauded the move. one of them mentioned they felt alleviated that their wards would be safe, thanks to the very fact that they will be able to watch the feed whenever they wish.
Some, of course, expressed concern. Santram, an office bearer of the New Delhi Government school teachers Association, the students and teachers may behave artificially.
However, Delhi education minister Manish Sisodia has labelled these problems “hypothetical” and mentioned nobody would see anything other than “40 students studying” on the live feed.
DDC member Marathe, who is additionally an AAP representative, has written that there were several advantages of parents having the ability to access their kids’ CCTV feed. He mentioned it would assist curb “bullying, excessive punishment, inadequate attention spans, teacher absenteeism and even student playing truant.”
Marathe additionally tells The Wire that students and lecturers who were consulted concerning the project before its launch didn’t specify any discomfort. “As far as the issue of the scheme impacting the link of boy and girl students is concerned, there’s not a lot at stake as solely five of the schools are co-ed.
In fact, he says, the project empowers guardians because it ensures that their wards get high-quality education in a very secure atmosphere. “Moreover, we should not forget that the majority students going to government schools aren’t from very wealthy and cannot support if they do not peform educationally. thus this project provides them with a chance to avail themselves of the most effective services and stand out,” he adds.
However, this wasn’t the end of the debate on the right to privacy, the recent verdict of the Supreme Court within the case of Amber Tickoo v. Government of NCT of New Delhi reignited the controversy that surrounds the right to privacy, specifically the right to privacy of minors.
In July, 2019, an old Delhi government school in Lajpat Nagar became the first faculty completey equipped with CCTV cameras in keeping with lecture rooms. in line with the govt the next step would be to supply the parents access to the live feed through a mobile app that they can access employing a password.
Right to privacy in public areas
The Justice Puttaswamy judgement loosely addressed the issue of difficulty of the right to privacy, extended the right to privacy of citizens to the public areas.
“If the reason for safeguarding privacy is the dignity of the individual, the principle for its existence doesn’t stop simply because the individual has to mingle with others within the public arena. The extent to which an individual expects privacy on a public street is also completely different from that which she expects within the sanctity of the house. yet if dignity is the underlying feature, the premise of recognising the right to privacy isn’t denuded in public spaces… Privacy attaches to the person and to not the place wherever it’s associated.”
The court, thus, acknowledges that acts done by people within public areas aren’t essentially public in nature, the proper individuals would still be guaranteed the right to privacy in such circumstances.
However, while considering the Justice Puttaswamy judgement, despite school rooms being a public area, Students also have privacy as their right, as the right is connected to their person and not the space they’re in. The installation of CCTV cameras in lecture rooms would therefore ignore these rights and seems to imply that minors don’t possess an equivalent right to privacy as adults
CCTV cameras in classrooms
The government has supported its call to add security cameras within classrooms for several reasons. The decision was decided in response to incidents of violence in schools like the assault of a 4-year-old preschooler. However, besides attempting to assuage safety considerations, the Delhi government additionally states that having access to the live feeds from these cameras would reduce the delinquency and absenteeism of students. This move is additionally meant to bolster the boldness of parents in the quality of education being imparted to their wards.
This experiment with CCTV cameras in class isn’t a completely unique idea. Many other jurisdictions have already enforced similar methods in schools from arming teachers with two-way radios to putting in CCTV cameras in schools, even in changing rooms. almost all of secondary schools within the United Kingdom are currently equipped with security cameras, and this constant monitoring has been criticized by many observers, as well as the teachers. Studies suggest that pupils in United Kingdom Northern Ireland are monitored as often as people in jail and travellers at Airport.
A study conducted on CCTV monitoring of school students in Israel additionally concludes that the cameras result in a growing terror in the students that they were constantly being recorded all over school. The study additionally discovered a tension between the normalisation of school monitoring, but inflated resistance to other surveillance among students which may eventually cause behavioural issues.
Also, the Delhi government towards the students, as there aren’t any laws that govern the utilization of CCTV cameras in schools in India. The question of parental access to feeds is additionally in question because the present digital infrastructure might not be ready to support this venture, and how the government is going to give access.
The class of society of minors, the state has chosen to rank security considerations over the right to privacy of students. while the installation of CCTV cameras in New Delhi government schools is within the limelight. Madras High Court issued directions to the Transport Commissioner, to issue orders for fixing of CCTV cameras and Global Positioning Systems in all school buses. schools in Gurugram are currently also set to follow behind the footsteps of the New Delhi model. They additionally enable schools with a dearth of funds to seek extra grants for the installation of cctv camera.
The cameras installation has popped up mixed views with oldsters being usually pleased with the news and lecturers apprehensive concerning an equivalent, the move has neglected some massive considerations. The streaming of the schoolroom feeds is one such issue, because of the massive scale of the scheme, it’ll be not possible to ensure the soundness of this feed. The feed is accessed although a mobile app and a password, which makes it susceptible to leaks. There has additionally been no analysis done to research the impact of such constant scrutiny on students and lecturers.
The right to privacy of children is often considered subordinate to other issues, this will most accurately be seen in the statement by the Delhi CM Kejriwal that states that “There will be no privacy breach, students attend school for education, to be taught discipline and become knowledgeable citizens of the country… It additionally totally ignores the question of illegal access to those live-feeds by unauthorized parties arguing that “Hypothetically even though one will get access, he can only see forty Students learning. Nothing more is obtained out of it.”
The decision to put in CCTV cameras in colleges ultimately created to profit students and bolster the safety. The live stream proposed in these school rooms has come back with substantial scrutiny. As SC denied stay, the Delhi government implemented the project.
If a person is being monitored by somebody continuously, surely the person will become sensitive and display some artificial behavior. However, we cannot rule out the benefits of having CCTV. To strike a balance, CCTV cameras installation may be restricted to common places like corridors, canteens, playgrounds, common areas and can be accessed, in case of any need arises. To share the live stream to parents, shall be only on need based.
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